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THE REASON WE ARE

The Reason We Are
Every day people wonder about where they came from, their ancestors. We sometimes ask, why am I the way that I am? Some of us even become obsessed with our “family tree.” Well, have you ever wondered about your spiritual family tree? As a Catholic, we often talk of the Communion of Saints, we pray about it every time we say the Creed at mass.

In the movie Amistad (1997), based on a true story, the central character, Cinque, who is on trial, basically for freedom or to be returned to slavery is about to testify. John Quincy Adams, who was brought in as his attorney asks Cinque if he is scared. He tells Adams he is not because he will call upon all his ancestors, and they must come, because, “they are the reason I am.”

So it is with our faith ancestors. We are “the reason they were.” All that they did, all that they believed, has come to us – been gifted to us – from the hands of a loving God.

In The Reason We Are, we will, daily, explore a moment of Church History. I will present to you a description of an event, or maybe a moment in the life of the Catholic Church. Then offer a brief reflection, and a prayer. We will start at the beginning, and work our way up to the present day, a meditative stroll if you will with our spiritual ancestors.

[If you are visiting for the first time, and wish to go back to the beginning, simply scroll down. Dates as they are known will be provided for historical reference.]

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For the next 36 Days, THE REASON WE ARE is going to take a little detour. We are going to go on a "trip" and visit with some of our Faith Ancestors. Did you know that there are 36 DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH; learned men and women who have made significant contributions to the make up of the Catholic Church. So, for the next 36 days I will be taking you back to visit awhile with all these amazing people. Everyday, I will share with you a piece of their story, then offer a reflection, a thought straight from them, and then a prayer. You will see that we will make our visits according to the order of their birth. If you miss one, simply scroll down. It is my desire that you will be inspired by the faith of these amazing individual.
(If you are visiting for the first time, scroll down to see all the others that we call "faith ancestors.")

[MANAGER'S CHOICE 9/1/2017: I came to realize as I completed the "walks" with the 36 Doctors Ecclesiae, that there are many, many others, that we could list as our faith ancestors, not the least of which are those who have personnaly nurtured and inspired our personal faith. With that in mind, I am going to continue to seek out the stories of individuals whose lives and own spiritual journey can serve to deepen ours.]

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Well, our little “walks” with the Doctors of the Church have come to an end. But in the course of these excursions, I have come across the stories of many more men and women of faith, who given the circumstances might fit what seems to be the parameters that the popes, over the years, used to nominate and name Doctors Ecclesiae.
·        Be an ecclesiastical individual (I guess that means deeply steeped in matters of Church)
·        Be renowned for orthodoxy and sanctity
·        Be an example of Catholicity

So with that in mind, let’s do a little more “walking” and along the way we shall encounter yet again some amazing faith ancestors who truly are – THE REASON WE ARE…

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ST. KATHERINE DREXEL (1858 - 1955)


For today’s “walk” with a faith ancestor, I decided to look at the life of a faith ancestor that I walked with both spiritually and literally. No, I never met her face to face but I did get to spend some time with one of her sisters who tended to her on her death bed, and I walked around for 4 years on the sacred ground where she once worked and ministered.

St. Katherine Drexel – the second American born Saint to be canonized – was born into wealth and luxury in Philadelphia, PA. But, as seems to be true for all those we have walked with, if God wants you; God will get you! Fate and Faith often determines our path, and such was the case with this amazing spirit. Katherine’s mother died shortly after her birth. Her father remarried into another wealthy family run by General Edward Morrell, who had made his personal mission to raise the lives of the Native Americans. Katherine surely saw this for her life became dedicated to working with the poor of the Native Americans, and the African Americans.

Katherine would go on to establish the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who together with St. Katherine Drexel established missions houses and schools (among them Xavier University, New Orleans, and Xavier Preparatory School, New Orleans) across the United States. Personally, I have been deeply blessed to have crossed paths with St. Katherine Drexel’s amazing spirit. And her story has become a part of my own. I know, and have known some amazing women who continue to carry on her legacy.

“If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them. Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.”

It is a lesson we all need - to let alone the things that do not concern us. He has other ways for others to follow Him; all do not go by the same path. It is for each of us to learn the path by which He requires us to follow Him, and to follow Him in that path.”

 “My sweetest Joy is to be in the presence of Jesus in the holy Sacrament. I beg that when obliged to withdraw in body, I may leave my heart before the holy Sacrament. How I would miss Our Lord if He were to be away from me by His presence in the Blessed Sacrament!”




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ST. ELIZABETH ANN SETON (1774 - 1821)


As we continue our “walk” with our faith ancestors, and we explore the possibilities of who might qualify as the next Doctor Ecclesiae (Doctor of the Church), I throw out for your consideration a few worthy candidates- St. John Bosco, John Henry Newman, Angelo Giuseppe Roncali (St. Pope John XXIII). But, There are so many men on the list, let’s give another of the amazing women of the church a shot. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton early in her life, probably had no intention whatsoever of a life in service to God and the church. But, as I am often prone to state, if God wants you, God will get you.

 She was born of non-Catholic parents, in Connecticut, and took most of her schooling in England. She was married to a rather wealthy businessman, William Seton , and she was led to assist her sister-in-law in charitable endeavors. The came to be known as “the Protestant Sisters of Charity.” Her life would take a few strange turns. During her father’s illness, she offered the life of her infant child, who would live to be ninety, and become Mother Catherine of the Sisters of Charity. Jumping ahead, her husband’s health required a sea voyage to Italy where she and her children found residence with an Italian family, a business associate. Their Catholic lifestyle fascinated Elizabeth. Through it all, the death of her husband, her children going to live with her sister-in-law, she converted to Catholicism in 1805. Shortly after her conversion, she and a group of friends opened a boarding house for, believe it or not, a group of boys from a Protestant school. This led to a group of women, her daughter among them to form a community founded on the Rules of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Elizabeth was a prolific writer. And with the help of a convert, and seminarian, and a donation of $10,000 she started a school for poor children. It is why we look to her as one of the patron saints of Catholic Education.


I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself.

 God is everywhere, in the very air I breathe, yes everywhere, but in His Sacrament of the Altar He is as present actually and really as my soul within my body; in His Sacrifice daily offered as really as once offered on the Cross.”

 We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives - that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.


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ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE (1676 - 1751)
Our first ex-officio faith ancestor caught my eye when a dear friend discovered one of his essays, and then while reading St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s story, I saw this saint as a contemporary. So today, we take our walk with St. Leonard of Port Maurice. Have you ever spent any time in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament? If you have you can thank this prolific speaker and preacher for that. Because it was through his efforts that the process of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament became part of the defined dogma of the Catholic Church. Another of St. Leonard’s accomplishments was the formulation and writing of a simplified process of the Stations of the Cross. Though schooled deeply by the Jesuits, he chose as his habit the Reformella, a reformed wing of the Friars Minor. He would go on to establish monasteries throughout Italy and become a close advisor to two popes, Clement XII and Benedict XIV. His most celebrated work was called Proponimenti, resolutions for the attainment of higher Christian perfection.
“If you practice the holy exercise of Spiritual Communion a good many times each day, within a month you will see yourself completely changed.”

I believe that were it not for the Holy Mass, as of this moment the world would be in the abyss.


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[NOTE: The following "faith ancestor" of ours is the last of the 36, both in chronological order of birth and in date of selection, Doctors of the Church. But keep visiting as I am going to attempt to look at the lives and spirits of others who we could list among our faith ancestors, those who fill us with the fire of faith.]

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ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX (1873 - 1897)

Today is the day that we take our final “walk” with the official Doctors of the Church (I will explain more tomorrow). And as we take our walk, you might ask, how does this Doctor qualify? For according to Pope Boniface VIII who in 1295 named the first four (remember Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory) to be a Doctor one must be an ecclesiastical man renowned for his orthodoxy and sanctity – and his antiquity. Well, The Little Flower of Jesus only fits the orthodoxy and sanctity part. For St. Therese of Lisieux, was not an ecclesiastical man – though I dare say she was very ecclesiastical, and antiquity does not fit at all. She lived but twenty four short years in this temporal existence. Boniface may not have agreed, but I agree with Pope Benedict XVI, who named her Doctor Ecclesiae in 2015. She is our newest.
Both of Therese’s parents had wished to join orders, and both had been denied. So, they had 5 children, and each of them gave their life in service to Christ – one to the Visitation Order, the other four to the Carmelites. In only eleven years of spiritual life, St. Therese managed to become the perfect example of simplicity, and abandonment of life to service of God. Her writing “Letters and Spiritual Counsels,” and Story Of A Soul, have become the blueprint for how to be in service to God.
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our lord's living garden.”
“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you-for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart… don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…”


Read more of St. Therese’s simple, yet so profound thoughts (3 pages) at:

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ST. ALPHONSUS LIGOURI (1696 - 1787)

According to New Advent, the Catholic Encyclopedia, the eighteenth century was not a remarkable time for spiritual depth of thought. But, also according to New Advent, this time period gave us three of the Catholic Church’s most prolific figures – St. Leonard of Port Maurice, St. Paul of the Cross, and Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori; to us better known as St. Alphonsus Ligouri. According to Alphonsus father, once the boy made up his mind there was no deterring him. And such was the case when it came to his learning, for at the age of 16 he had already earned a Doctor of Laws degree. Unlike many of our prior faith ancestors (maybe with the exception of Augustine), Alphonsus did not take to the ecclesial life early in life. He took his law practice and the glory that went with it very seriously. Banquets, the theater, and all the pleasures of the secular life were his playground. But, as we all know, if God wants you, God will get you. In 1723 there was a case that Alphonsus was more than certain that he had won, but as fate would have it, he neglected a piece of evidence that a six year old would have noticed. He lost, he was devastated (it was his road to Damascus moment). He drifted into despair, but thankfully also into prayer.

In the process, Alphonsus, went to perform an act of charity when a voice from somewhere deep called, “Leave the world, and give thyself to me.”

He left his father’s house, joined a group of secular priests (I guess that means, not in an order), became a deacon, and at thirty was ordained a priest. In 1729, he befriended Matthew Ripa, the Apostle to China, who had started a House in Naples. To make a long story even longer, He met an older priest, Father Thomas Falcoia, who had a vision of a new order of men and women who would give themselves to the pure understanding of the life of Christ. He convinced Alphonsus to help them draw up their Rule. This would develop into the Order of the Redemptorists. There were many battles over the years (you really should read his full New Advent Biography: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01334a.htm ). Though Alphonsus would not see the fullness of his Order’s development, without him, it would never have happened.

“Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears - of everything that concerns you.”

“The heart of man, is so to speak, the paradise of God.”

(Now there is one worth praying over.)

“If you wish to strengthen your confidence in God still more, often recall the loving way in which He has acted toward you, and how mercifully He has tried to bring you out of your sinful life, to break your attachment to the things of earth and draw you to His love.”


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ST. FRANCIS DE SALES (1567 - 1622)

In this morning’s “walk” with one of our faith ancestors we visit with a spirit who was filled with apostolic zeal. So much so, that he battled protestants, and was even successful at helping several staunch Calvinists to return to the true faith. St. Francis de Sales, was born into an aristocratic family in the duchy of Savoy (south east France, near Lake Geneva). His family, particularly his father was dead set on Francis becoming a member of the magistracy, and sent him to a college under the care of the Jesuits. Francis had other ideas, he wanted the ecclesial life, but not with the Jesuits. After a prolonged discussion with a group of theologians on the topic of predestination, he fell upon his knees in front of a Miraculous Image of Our Lady and took a vow of chastity, and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin. His father had already secured a mistress for him, but the Archbishop of Geneva, knowing Francis’ spirit secured for him a highly regarded legal position in the patronage of the pope. His father relented, and Francis took Holy Orders in 1593.

Francis was best known for his battles against Protestantism, and in 1602 he was selected as the new Archbishop of Geneva. As bishop, he didn’t just preach the life of the clergy, he lived it. He maintained meager quarters, had a deep love and concern for the poor, and he demanded the same from those clergy who served under him. He was probably named a Doctor of the Church due to his extensive writing, among them, the following:

·        The “Controversies” – a series of pamphlets, which he published and spread all over France outlining the proof of the Catholic Church.

·        The “Defense of the Standard Cross” – explaining the veneration of the Cross

·        An “Introduction to the Devout Life” – for discernment to the ecclesial life.

·        “Treatise on the Love of God” – an authoritative work on his own spirit

“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”
“Have Jesus always for your patron, His Cross for a mast on which you must spread your resolutions as a sail. Your anchor shall be a profound confidence in Him, and you shall sail prosperously.”

I could go on and on with thoughts from the spirit of St. Francis de Sales. If you want to read more of these deeply profound understandings just go to:


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ST. LAWRENCE OF BRINDISI (1559 - 1619)

Our faith ancestor walk today takes place with St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559 – 1619), who was given the name of Julius Caesar at his birth. But that did not last too long for at the age of 15 he gave himself to the Order of Capuchin Friars, and given the name of Brother Lorenzo. Many knew his destiny was in service to God, for at the age of six, he was given orations better than many of the preachers of his day. Many of Lorenzo’s talents had to come from a more heavenly source. It was said that he could understand and speak fluently all the major languages and dialects of the day. He could even speak Hebrew, which led to many Jews being converted to the Catholic faith, through Lorenzo’s words. It is also claimed that Lorenzo, due to his incredible memory, could recite the text of the original Bible. He would go on to serve in every leadership position of the Capuchin Order. But, his most notable accomplishment seems to be that he was able to lead, as Chaplain of the Imperial Army (armed only with his Cross, and riding at their head), two significantly outnumbered Crusade Armies against The Turks – winning both battles!
St. Lawrence it is said performed many miracles, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is also known for writing some of the most beautiful Canticles to the Blessed Mother. He was not canonized until 1881, and was named Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.
“Oh, if we were to consider this reality, that God is truly present to us when we speak to him in prayer; that he truly listens to our prayers, even if we pray only with our hearts and minds. …not only is he present and hears us, indeed he willingly and with the greatest of pleasure wishes to grant our requests.”
“Therefore, God ordained from all eternity to communicate the infinite treasures of His goodness, to show forth the infinite charity of His mystery by this divine Incarnation in order that Christ might be great and might sit as King at the right hand of God.”



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ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE (1542 - 1621)



As we “walk” with today’s faith ancestor, you will not see any amazing stories of miracles or visions. What you will see is the story of man, deeply Catholic battling the rise of Protestant thoughts. You will see a simple soul who followed the will of God and the instructions of the four different popes that he served. St. Robert Bellarmine (1542 – 1621). At the age of eighteen he would enter the Jesuit run college in his home town of Montepulciano. He would take his first vows the following day. For the next ten years he would be ordained, study theology and garner a reputation as an incredible teacher and preacher. Catholics and Protestants would travel miles to hear his homilies. Pope Sixtus V would name him his personal theologian. In 1599 he was elevated to Cardinal-Priest under the justification that the Church of God had no equal in learning.

His spirit of prayer, his singular delicacy of conscience and freedom from sin, his spirit of humility and poverty, together with the disinterestedness which he displayed as much under the cardinal's robes as under the Jesuit's gown, his lavish charity to the poor, and his devotedness to work, had combined to impress those who knew him intimately with the feeling that he was of the number of the saints. (taken from the New Advent Biography: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02411d.htm


God wanted man to know him somehow through his creatures, and since no creature could fittingly reflect the infinite perfection of the Creator, he multiplied his creatures and gave a certain goodness and perfection to each of them so that from them we could judge the goodness and perfection of the Creator, who embraces infinite perfection in the perfection of his one and utterly simple essence.

On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

“Cheer up. Where there is life, there is hope.”


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ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS (1542 - 1591)

This morning we take a walk with a “doctor of mystic theology.” Just the sound of that title brings you to the depths of your soul, and that is the one thing that St. John of the Cross (1542 – 1591) is most known for; his exploration and his writing on the soul. His work, The Dark Night of the Soul, is one of the true theological classics. St. John was born into a poor family, and understood the process of struggle from an early age. If not for the governor of the hospital at Medina, St. John might have gone the way of most people who live day to day off the street. He spent most of his young life working in the hospital, waiting on the poor, and visiting the local school run by the Jesuits. The story goes, that while in prayer, he received a message telling him he would serve God in an order of the ancient profession and help to bring it back to life. He took the habit of the Carmelites, but wanted to join the Carthusians. Then he met St. Teresa of Avila, who convinced him to remain a Carmelite, and help her to build up the Discalced Carmelites; which he succeeded in doing.

The trials that John went through are far too numerous to mention here, but it was after a long imprisonment (from his own order) that he wrote The Dark Night of the Soul. The following description is directly from the New Advent Biography:
 His axiom is that the soul must empty itself of self in order to be filled with God, that it must be purified of the last traces of earthly dross before it is fit to become united with God. In the application of this simple maxim he shows the most uncompromising logic. Supposing the soul with which he deals to be habitually in the state of grace and pushing forward to better things, he overtakes it on the very road leading it, in its opinion to God, and lays open before its eyes a number of sores of which it was altogether ignorant, viz. what he terms the spiritual capital sins. Not until these are removed (a most formidable task) is it fit to be admitted to what he calls the "Dark Night", which consists in the passive purgation, where God by heavy trials, particularly interior ones, perfects and completes what the soul had begun of its own accord. It is now passive, but not inert, for by submitting to the Divine operation it co-operates in the measure of its power. Here lies one of the essential differences between St. John's mysticism and a false quietism. The perfect purgation of the soul in the present life leaves it free to act with wonderful energy: in fact it might almost be said to obtain a share in God's omnipotence, as is shown in the marvelous deeds of so many saints. As the soul emerges from the Dark Night it enters into the full noonlight described in the "Spiritual Canticle" and the "Living Flame of Love". St. John leads it to the highest heights, in fact to the point where it becomes a "partaker of the Divine Nature". It is here that the necessity of the previous cleansing is clearly perceived the pain of the mortification of all the senses and the powers and faculties of the soul being amply repaid by the glory which is now being revealed in it.

“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

“Love is the measure by which we shall be judged.”

“We must dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.”



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ST. PETER CANISIUS (1521 - 1597)

I pray you are getting as much out of reflecting and reading these “strolls” with our faith ancestors, as I am getting by researching them and putting them together. Today we walk with one of those spirits who just did what he needed to do as a CATHOLIC, rarely seeking any recognition. And it wasn’t until 1927, 330 years after his death, that St. Peter Canisius was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI. Here are just a few of St. Peter’s accomplishments and thoughts on his life. The full read of his New Advent biography is worth the time spent:

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1549 in the presence of the founder, Ignatius of Loyola, and would go on to… establish 5 Universities throughout mostly Germany and Austria, he would write his own Catechism, which many claim is better than the one that came out of the Council of Trent. And speaking of the Council of Trent (the process of Catholic Reformation that would shape the Church for the next 400 plus years); St. Peter was one of the principal advisers to the pope and cardinals that initiated the Council. Twice he would refuse a bishops seat, and thrice refuse a cardinal’s red hat, opting to teach and to preach. When the Society of Jesus put together a compilation of his writing after his death it would take 38 pages just to name each of his writings, and it wasn’t complete. The following thought sums up what St. Peter Canisius was all about…"Canisius's whole life", writes the Swiss Protestant theologian Gautier, "is animated by the desire to form a generation of devout clerics capable of serving the Church worthily." [NOTE: Interesting that he was named a Doctor of the Church, but not the founder of his order.] Let’s look at some of his theology:

“We are to pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on us, we do have a free will.”


“For the sake of obtaining that eternal life no works of piety ought to seem too hard to a true believer, no toil too heavy, no pain too bitter, no time spent in labor and suffering too long or too wearisome. For if nothing is sweeter or more desirable than this present life which is so full of calamities, how much more desirable must that other life be deemed which is so far removed from all sense of evil or fear of it, which will in every conceivable way always abound in the unspeakable and unending joys, delight and happiness of heaven.”


“Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church's enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.”

And one of St. Peter Canisius’ prayers…

“Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you.

May I be united with the praise that flows from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with the gratitude drawn from your heart, good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with the divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints.”



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ST. TERESA OF AVILA (1515 - 1582)

This morning our walk with a faith ancestor takes us right back to Avila, Spain. Today, we get to take a stroll with the first woman to receive the title Doctor of the Church. While chronologically St. Catherine and St. Hildegard both preceded St. Teresa of Avila, Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada, was given the title Doctor before them both (1970). Teresa’s early life was filled with education. Though her mother died when she was fourteen, her father made sure that she was learned in all things of the world (a rarity for a girl of her time). It was her uncle who introduced her to the Letters of St. Jerome, which would become the driving force behind her decision to enter the Carmelite Convent. At first her father protested but seeing the girl’s deep piety, he yielded.

After taking her habit, she became seriously ill, and it was during this illness that she received many visions, one which showed her hell, if she did not follow the graces she had been given. There were a few notables, among them St. John of the Cross, St. Francis Borgia, and St. Peter Alcantra, along with a few Dominicans and Jesuits who along the way helped Teresa to discern the reasons and meaning of her visions. She would later leave the Carmelites to form her own order of Discalced (barefoot) Carmelites. And her writings Relations and Interior Castle, is claimed to rival the Confessions of St. Augustine. She received canonization in 1622. Below you will find a few thoughts to ponder, and the prayer for which she has been forever linked:

“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away: God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”

“The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.”

“The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”

And the thought we probably should pay the closest attention to…

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”

And we pray St. Teresa’s prayer…

“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”

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ST. JOHN OF AVILA (1499 - 1569)

Well we are back on track after Friday’s sidestep to visit with Ignatius of Loyola. Today’s walk with a faith ancestor takes us to Spain yet again. St. John of Avila was not named a Doctor of the Church until 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. It makes you wonder, if he was deserving of the title, why not sooner. But, what we know of John was that he was a brilliant speaker and displayed deep devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. People would travel miles to attend one of his services and hear his homilies. He was born into a very wealthy family who sent him off at the age of fourteen to pursue a career in jurisprudence. He would return home three years later where a traveling Franciscan monk took note of his deep piety and convinced him to study philosophy and theology. His parents died while he was in training, and after his ordination he sold all his families holdings and used the funds to serve the poor.

 He was smitten by a desire to travel to the America’s for missionary work, but due to his knowledge and ability to preach, he was convinced to stay in Spain. It is claimed that his influence was responsible for drawing St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Francis Borgia to a life in service to the Church. He is best known for a work titled, Audi Fili, and treatise on Christian perfection.

Here are a few thought of St. John worthy of reflection:
“Turn yourself around like a piece of clay and say to the Lord: I am clay, and you Lord, the potter. Make of me what you will.”
Dear brothers and sisters, I pray God may open your eyes and let you see what hidden treasures he bestows on us in the trials from which the world thinks only to flee. Shame turns into honor when we seek God's glory. Present affliction become the source of heavenly glory. To those who suffer wounds in fighting his battles God opens his arms in loving, tender friendship. That is why he (Christ) tells us that if we want to join him, we shall travel the way he took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go his way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor: "The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant greater than his master."
(from a letter by Saint John of Avila)
“Withdraw your heart from the world before God takes your body out of it.”


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ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (1491 - 1556)

This morning’s walk with one of our faith ancestors is being provided under protest, yes, under protest. For the life of me I cannot understand why St. Ignatius of Loyola, has not been elevated to Doctor of the Church status. So it is under the spirit of FAITHFUL DISSENT, that I choose to take a walk with this faith ancestor. (We will return to the rest of the Doctors on Monday.)
At an early age, Inigo (his birth name) was made a cleric. But, being brought up in the household of one of the “mayors” of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, his attentions were drawn to military service. He rose to the rank of a military officer in service to the Queen. But God grabbed him with a cannonball! While in the battle of the French besieging Pampeluna, Inigo was struck in the leg by a cannonball. Suffering with a fever, he was taken to his hometown of Loyola where while in convalescence (and with only two books present in his room – a Bible, and The Life of Christ by Thomas A Kempis) Ignatius, as he would come to be known was smitten by the spirit. When he recovered, and with no plans for his future, he set off on a pilgrimage of sorts which would eventually lead to the formation of one of the prominent Catholic Orders, The Society of Jesus – The Jesuits. This pilgrimage began in the sanctuary at Montserrat, where Inigo confessed his sins, put on sack cloth, and left his sword and dagger hanging at Our Lady’s Altar.

All this time, he was taking notes and writing down his progression which would lead to one of the most beautiful works of spiritual formation – The Spiritual Exercises. He decided to travel, and his travels led him to Jerusalem and back. Along the way he met other young men of like mind, and his influence on their piety grew along with his own. Along the way he suffered many hardships, and several of those who he was traveling with were murdered in their cause. His full story is far to long to tell here, so I suggest you take some time to read it at New Advent:

I apologize (actually I don’t) for this little “walk” off the path, as much of my own spirituality is a result of spending time with Ignatius’ story and in study of The Spiritual Exercises. I will offer you a couple of his thoughts, and then offer one of the most poignant of prayers, Ignatius’ Suscipe:

“God freely created us so that we might know, love, and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever. God's purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of love and service here on earth, so that we may attain our goal of everlasting happiness with him in heaven. All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully. As a result, we ought to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. But insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go.”

“Love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words.... love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses, or something of that which he has or is able to give; and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover. Hence, if one has knowledge, he shares it with the one who does not possess it; and so also if one has honors, or riches. Thus, one always gives to the other.”

And Ignatius’ Suscipe:

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own.

You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”

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ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA (1347 - 1379)

If you have never read the basic story of the first woman (Actually St. Teresa of Avila and her were recognized practically at the same time.) to be recognized as a Doctor of The Church, St. Catherine of Sienna, you really should. (Now that I have paid closer attention, I want to know more.) Read the basic story here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03447a.htm

St. Catherine’s life started, as the youngest of a very large family. She began having visions very early in what would prove to be a very holy, though unfortunately short life. At age seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ, and at age 16 took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, who believe it or not would later go on to persecute this special soul. After three years of visions, she underwent a very mystical experience called a “spiritual espousal.” She returned to her family and began to serve the poor and the needy, even while battling crippling illness of her own. In the summer of 1370, she had series of manifestations on the Divine Mysteries which placed her in a sort of mystical death. Here, she received visions of Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory. She is most noted for convincing Pope Gregory to return to Rome from his split in Avignon. And she tried diligently to keep the Church from splitting into a Greek Church and a Latin Church (The Great Schism). Her writing rank among some of the best of the classics of the Italian language. Her Dialogue on the Divine Providence which treats of the whole spiritual life of man in the form of a series of colloquies between the Eternal Father and the human soul (represented by Catherine herself), is the mystical counterpart in prose of Dante's "Divina Commedia" (The Divine Comedy).

The following is an excerpt from The Dialogue Of St. Catherine Of Siena…(The book was dictated by her to her secretaries while Catherine was in a state of ecstasy, 1370)

This excerpt is one of the places where she heard God speaking directly to her…

"Do you not know, dear daughter, that all the sufferings, which the soul endures, or can endure, in this life, are insufficient to punish one smallest fault, because the offense, being done to Me, who am the Infinite Good, calls for an infinite satisfaction? ...

...However, I wish that you should know, that not all the pains that are given to men in this life are given as punishments, but as corrections, in order to chastise a son when he offends; though it is true that both the guilt and the penalty can be expiated by the desire of the soul, that is, by true contrition, not through the finite pain endured, but through the infinite desire; because God, who is infinite, wishes for infinite love and infinite grief…

…Paul explained this when he said: If I had the tongues of angels, and if I knew the things of the future and gave my body to be burned, and have not love, it would be worth nothing to me. The glorious Apostle thus shows that finite works are not valid, either as punishment or recompense, without the condiment of the affection of love."

If you wish to ponder the entirety of The Dialogue Of St. Catherine Of Siena, just click the link below:
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ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225 - 1274)

For this morning’s “stroll” with our faith ancestors your task is simple. Read Summa Theologica…just kidding. But, our stroll this morning is with the person responsible for that journey of faith that is next to the Holy Scriptures themselves, the most important writing in the life of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas is considered by most to be the preeminent figure in the life of the Catholic Faith post Peter and Paul. A holy hermit, before Thomas’ birth said the following to his mother, "He will enter the Order of Friars Preachers, and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him." He studied at the University of Naples, and it was in 1240 that he received the habit of the Order of St. Dominic. It is said that when his mother was about to visit him, the Dominicans, fearing they might lose this brilliant mind back to the secular world, sent Thomas to Rome. Along the way, Thomas’ brothers kidnapped him and held him captive. During the time of Thomas’ captivity his brothers would try to tempt him with all manners of earthly desire and pleasure. Thomas would reject them all, even the temptress which according to the story, he drove from his room with a burning log.

When he was finally freed, he was placed under the tutelage of Albertus Magnus (St. Albert the Great). By the age of 25, Thomas was already teaching at the University of Paris. From the moment he received his Doctor of Theology (alongside yesterday’s faith ancestor St. Bonaventure), Thomas’ life was dedicated to writing, preaching, teaching, and praying. Thomas was on more than one occasion taken into ecstasy (an elevated state of consciousness). In one of these moments Thomas was discovered by three of his brethren in the chapel, to be in ecstasy, and all three of them heard a voice say, “Thou hast written well of me Thomas, what reward wilt thou have.” All three heard St. Thomas reply, “None other than thyself Lord!” It is unfortunate that this brilliant spirit lived less than 50 years, however, he is still looked upon as the most prolific writer of the Catholic Faith, having left us over 60 works, with his Summa Theologica, sitting right next to Scripture itself.

I shall offer you three thoughts, and a prayer from this Doctor of the Church, and faith ancestor of ours, but in doing so, I will leave both of us wanting for more…

Let’s start with the obvious…

“The existence of a prime mover- nothing can move itself; there must be a first mover. The first mover is called God.”

Then there is my favorite…

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

Then there is an explanation regarding the whole science/faith thing…

“The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”

And a prayer…

“Grant, O Lord my God, that I may never fall away in success or in failure; that I may not be prideful in prosperity nor dejected in adversity. Let me rejoice only in what unites us and sorrow only in what separates us. May I strive to please no one or fear to displease anyone except Yourself. May I see always the things that are eternal and never those that are only temporal. May I shun any joy that is without You and never seek any that is beside You. O Lord, may I delight in any work I do for You and tire of any rest that is apart from You. My God, let me direct my heart towards You, and in my failings, always repent with a purpose of amendment.”

And one more for the road…

“The soul is like an uninhabited world that comes to life

only when God lays His head against us.”


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ST. BONAVENTURE (1217 - 1274)

This morning our “walk” with one of our faith ancestors takes us on a stroll with John, at least that was his name before he took on the name of Bonaventure. Little is known of the early life of St. Bonaventure. What we seem to know of his early life before officially taking on the robes of the Friars Minor, Franciscans, is through legend. The story goes that John was brought to Francis shortly after his birth. He had a life threatening illness which St. Francis cured. The legend goes on to say that the child was adopted by Francis, and that he lived with those who followed the way of the Friars Minor. It was also claimed that at some point during the child’s life Francis was heard to proclaim, “O buono ventura!” And apparently the name stuck.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
What we do know for certain is that John, now Bonaventure, entered the Order of the Friars Minor in 1238, and was sent to the great Franciscan School in Paris which was started by Alexander of Hales, and he became one of Alexander’s prized students. We also know that St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure would both earn their Doctorate degrees at the same University at the same time – October 23, 1257. Bonaventure at the ripe old age of 35 was raised to the position of Minister General of the Friars Minor, he was the head Franciscan. Just to show that Bonaventure, like the founder of his order, was humble in all things…the story goes that when Bonaventure was elevated to the position of Cardinal in the church, when the edict of his selection and his red hat was brought to him, he was washing dishes in the courtyard. He told the pope’s emissary to, “Just hang it on the tree over there, I will get to it when I am finished my chores.”
A few thoughts from St. Bonaventure…
“In all your deeds and words you should look upon this Jesus as your model. Do so whether you area walking or keeping silence, or speaking, whether you are alone or with others. He is perfect, and thus you will be not only irreprehensible, but praiseworthy.”
And St. Bonaventure wrote a beautiful Psalter to the Blessed Mother. Here is a small part…
“Hear my prayer, O Lady: upon a firm rock establish my mind. Be thou to me a tower of strength: protect me from the face of the cruel destroyer. Be thou to him terrible as an army in battle array: and may he fall living into the depths of hell. For thou art shining and terrible: a cloud full of dew, and the rising dawn. Thou art beautiful and bright as the full moon: thy sacred aspect is as when the sun shines in its strength.”


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ST. ALBERT THE GREAT (1206 - 1280)
In this morning’s “walk,” we stroll with a genius. St. Albert, known as Albert the Great; scientist, philosopher, and theologian was one of, if not the most extraordinary  men of his day. He is called "the Great", and "Doctor Universalis" (Universal Doctor), in recognition of his extraordinary genius and extensive knowledge, for he was proficient in every branch of learning cultivated in his day, and surpassed all his contemporaries, except perhaps Roger Bacon (1214-94), in the knowledge of nature. Ulrich Engelbert, a contemporary, calls him the wonder and the miracle of his age: "Vir in omni scientia adeo divinus, ut nostri temporis stupor et miraculum congrue vocari possit". He joined the Dominican order at the age of 17, and everyone immediately recognized the intellect of this amazing spirit. He taught, St. Thomas Aquinas – I am not sure anything else need be said.
Thoughts from St. Albert the Great…
“I shall not conceal a science that was before me revealed by the grace of God; I shall not keep it to myself, for being afraid of attracting its curse. What worth is a concealed science; what worth is a hidden treasure? The science I have learned without fiction I transmit with no regret. Envy upsets everything; an envious man cannot be fair before God. Every science and knowledge proceeds from God. Saying it proceeds from the Holy Ghost is a simple way of expressing oneself. No one can thus say Our Lord Jesus Christ without implying Son of God our Father, by work and grace of the Holy Ghost. In the same manner this science cannot be separated from the One who has communicated it unto me.”
“Above all one should accept everything, in general and individually, in oneself or in others, agreeable or disagreeable, with a prompt and confident spirit, as coming from the hand of his infallible Providence or the order he has arranged.”
“Do this in remembrance of me.” Two things should be noted here. The first is the command that we should use this sacrament, which is indicated when Jesus says, “Do this.” The second is that this sacrament commemorates the Lord’s going to death for our sake. This sacrament is profitable because it grants remission of sins; it is most useful because it bestows the fullness of grace on us in this life. “The Father of spirits instructs us in what is useful for our sanctification.” And his sanctification is in Christ’s sacrifice, that is, when he offers himself in this sacrament to the Father for our redemption to us for our use. Christ could not have commanded anything more beneficial, for this sacrament is the fruit of the tree of life.”


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ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA (1195 - 1231)

Pick a story, any story, when it comes to the life of St. Anthony of Padua, and reflect upon it, and your heart will be amazed and touched. St. Anthony, for most of us, is known for and called upon to, help find items that we have lost. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard as a child, from both mother and grandmother, “St. Anthony please help me find my…” St. Anthony was born, Ferdinand Bouillon, and he was a direct descendant on his father’s side, of a renowned commander of the First Crusade. And, on his mother’s side, he was descended from the Fourth King of Austria. At the age of 15 he was educated by and joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. He studied with the Augustinians for eight years, and due to his prodigious memory, he was able to amass and overwhelming amount of theological knowledge which he would parlay into becoming an auspicious preacher. At this time in his life, he was so moved by the story of the Franciscan martyrs who tried to convert the Saracens, that he joined the Franciscans and took the name Anthony. It seemed that everywhere Anthony went God selected him to proclaim the faith through miraculous moments. I will describe two of them here for you. For as I read the story the images were so vivid, I could not help but be affirmed by the beauty and wonder of God.
The first has St. Anthony trying get his audience to understand the wonder of the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. As Anthony was preaching, one of the heretics who denied the sacrament claimed he would starve his mule for three days. If the Blessed Sacrament was as Anthony proclaimed, then maybe Anthony could get the animal to eat. So when the doubter came back to mass three days later, many placed oats in front of the mule who refused to eat. Then Anthony consecrated the Sacrament, and placed it before the animal who immediately fell to his knees and began to eat. Needless to say, the heretic repented and many were converted that day.
On another occasion, Anthony was trying to preach the Word of God, and all he was receiving was ridicule and abuse. So, Anthony left the church and walked to the sea shore, where he called out, “If ears will not hear the Word of God, I will preach to the fishes.” As Anthony delivered his sermon, schools of fishes came to the shoreline and began to raise their heads out the water, as though listening to every word from the mouth of the preacher. (If you are interested in reading about the miracles of St. Anthony you can go to the following website:

A couple thoughts from St. Anthony…
Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins. All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart. Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your efforts will be destroyed, and your boat will reach the harbor empty. If you have great authority, do not threaten anyone with death. Know that, according to nature, you too are susceptible to death, and that every soul sheds its body as its final garment.
And one of my favorites of all the “faith ancestors” that I follow…
He prays best who does not know that he is praying.
With this in mind, our prayer for the day might go something like this…
Mighty God, Compassionate God,
May my life today, and from this moment on, be a prayer of gratitude to You!


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ST. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN (1098 - 1179)

Today our visit takes us to Germany to visit one of the (too few) female Doctors of the Church. Though not the first female named a Doctor, chronologically she comes before St. Catherine of Sienna. St. Hildegard of Bingen was born into a very wealthy family, who cared more about their status in life rather than their children, and because Hildegard was very frail and sickly when she entered the world, her mother (a very religious person) dedicated Hildegard to the religious life. So at the age of eight she was given over to Jutta, a nun in the service of Count Meginhard, who lived as a recluse. Hildegard, because of her illness, was not provided formal education. She was however, it seems, given to visions, which she received throughout her life, and verified by several monks and bishops as coming from God. After a few of the early ones she had this to say…
…Up to my fifteenth year I saw much, and related some of the things seen to others, who would inquire with astonishment, whence such things might come. I also wondered and during my sickness I asked one of my nurses whether she also saw similar things. When she answered no, a great fear befell me. Frequently, in my conversation, I would relate future things, which I saw as if present, but, noting the amazement of my listeners, I became more reticent.
St. Hildegard would go on to write down the lessons of these visions and people would flock from all parts of Germany and Europe to seek her counsel…
Here are three thoughts very worthy of some serious reflection and prayer:
“Don't let yourself forget that God's grace rewards not only those who never slip, but also those who bend and fall. So sing! The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts. It makes tears of godly sorrow flow from them. Singing summons the Holy Spirit. Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, without discord. Don't stop singing.”

We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.

Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.
What delight God gives to humankind
with all these things .
All nature is at the disposal of humankind.
We are to work with it. For
without we cannot survive.


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ST. BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX (1090 - 1153)

Our “walk” with our faith ancestors is beginning to take us to visits with some names we recognize. (Coming up Hildegard of Bingen and Anthony of Padua) But, today we will visit with St. Bernard of Clairvaux . As I read Bernard’s story, I was struck by two things: 1) Bernard didn’t stand a chance against God. Before he was born and holy man laid out Bernard’s future, and in hindsight it was spot on. And 2) Bernard always took God’s side when it came to politics. You see Bernard lived at the time when everyone wanted to be king and everyone wanted to be pope. But not getting to far into the story, as a young man piety seemed to follow Bernard wherever he went. Fast forward to the tender age of 19, Bernard convinced thirty young noblemen to enter the monastery at Citeaux France (1109). Bernard’s understanding of Scripture and his intense love for the Blessed Virgin Mary was like a magnet. Young men flocked to the order (The Rule of St. Benedict was practiced). Bernard was sent by the abbot to start house across France, which he did. All the details of how Bernard helped alleviate minor schisms, and one major one between Innocent II and Anacletus II who both served as pope for a while (one in France, the other in Rome), would make this “walk” a long one. Let’s suffice to say, that Bernard of Clairvaux was called upon to bring people (mostly clerics, and pompous leaders) together, and he did it always based on God’s ways – not man’s. His writings and homilies on the Scriptures and on Mary, the Mother of God, were probably what landed him Doctor of the Church status. But his vigor in establishing the faith through the development of monasteries all over Europe probably secured his sainthood.

Read the entire story at New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02498d.htm

Here are several thoughts, worthy of reflection from St. Bernard:

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity.
There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity.
There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.”

“A saint is not someone who never sins, but one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly.”

“The more I contemplate God, the more God looks on me. The more I pray to him, the more he thinks of me too.”

And finally a bit of a prayer from the lips of St. Bernard…


“Jesus the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,



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ST. ANSELM (1033 - 1109)

Continuing to follow our faith ancestors around, we now see the Church spreading throughout all of Europe. Today we spend a little time with St. Anselm. In his extensive biography, Eadmer writes, that Anselm was taken by God at a young age thanks to the piety of his mother. Anselm tried to enter a monastery when he was 15, but was refused. This took him for a while into youthful ardor, but the tug from God brought him back. So, he left his home in England and traveled to Normandy and was trying to decide between life as a hermit, life as a monk, or living off his inheritance and giving to the poor and needy. Anselm chose the monastic life. He was so learned and so good at what he did, that after only 3 years he was appointed prior, and only one year after that abbot. It wasn’t long before things were in a bit of disarray in the Church at Cantebury that Anselm was appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is often called the Father of Scholastic Theology, and he is given a place beside may of the greats like Augustine, and Aquinas. Anselm is best remembered for his work on explaining the Theology of the Holy Spirit.
I do not try, Lord, to attain Your lofty heights, because my understanding is in no way equal to it. But I do desire to understand Your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. I do not seek to understand that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that unless I believe, I shall not understand.


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ST. PETER DAMIAN (1007 - 1072)

Can you imagine if, at your birth, your mother refused to feed you because one of your brothers protested that you would be a drain on the family’s resources? Then in your early years you were put out to be an orphan, only to have one of your other brothers adopt you, but make you a swineherd rather than a real member of the family. But somehow (I think only for the grace of God) you managed to grow in knowledge and piety. Then one of your other brothers (named Damian) who had become a priest took you away to be educated, and at the age of 25, you became one of the most renowned teachers at the University of Parma. Then after witnessing scandals and having so many distractions, you encountered tow hermits and you decided to follow them and live in the hermitage at Fonte-Avellena. Such was the life of St. Peter Damian – he gave himself the name Damian to honor the brother who took him in with love.

St. Peter Damian would go on while living the life of an ascetic monk to produce a thorough study of the Sacred Scripture, and to provide council and criticism for a church which was being rocked by scandal and heresy. For years, two popes tried to lift him to the status of cardinal, but Peter refused. Finally Pope Stephen X threatened him with excommunication if he didn’t accept. Peter accepted, and would go on to battle against the clergy who were disgracing the church through simony and adultery. In 1072 while travelling back “home” to Ravenna to reconcile the church there that had been excommunicated, he was struck with a fever and he died.
(See the full story at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11764a.htm )


“Do not despair. Do not be depressed. Do not let your weakness make you impatient.

Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face.

Let the joy of your mind burst forth, let words of thanks break from your lips.”


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ST. GREGORY OF NAREK (951 - 1003)


As we take this walk with our faith ancestors, we hit a bit of a roadblock. If you remember, St. John Damascene lived from 676-749. Our next ancestor (chronologically) wasn’t born until 951, over 200 years. Does this mean there was a period when there was no significant theological thought? It’s kind of sad to think. Well, St. Gregory of Narek (951 – 1003) is of the Armenian Catholic Church. Yet again, one of our faith ancestors was “born” into the faith. What I mean is he truly LIVED in the faith. At a very young age, Gregory entered the monastery in Narek which was founded and run by his cousin Anania of Narek – and he never left, and did I mention, his father was the archbishop of the town. He is best known for his work, a book of prayers, The Book of Lamentations. Gregory was both poet and mystic. This book of prayers has been recognized as one of the true gems of Christian literature. The interesting fact is Gregory of Narek is our newest DOCTOR of the Church. Named thus, in February of 2015 by Pope Francis. What I find a little disheartening is that there is no significant biography of St. Gregory of Narek in New Advent, or even in Wikipedia.

I offer to you Prayer #12 from the Book of Lamentations. If only we might love God in the way this prayer describes…

I long not so much for the gifts, as for the giver.
I yearn not so much for the glory, as the glorified.
I burn not so much with the desire for life, as in memory of the giver of life.
I sigh not so much with the rapture of splendor, as with the heartfelt fervor for its maker.
I seek not so much for rest, as for the face of our comforter.
I pine not so much for the bridal feast, as for the distress of the groom,
through whose strength I wait with certain expectation believing with unwavering hope
that in spite of the weight of my transgressions I shall be saved by the Lord’s mighty hand and
that I will not only receive remission of sins but that I will see the Lord himself in his mercy and compassion.


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ST. JOHN DAMASCENE (676 - 749)

As I read the biography of today’s faith ancestor, St. John Damascene, I could not help but think how we must take a page from his life. You see, St. John was living, and preaching in the time of the rise of the Islamic faith (origin 610 with Mohammed). St. John spoke out actively against the errors in the Koran, but never dismissed or denigrated the faith of those who practiced it. In fact, St. John appears to have been a welcomed, and frequent visitor into the Damascus caliph’s court. And wait until you hear the story. It seems that the Patriarch of Constantinople, envious of St. John’s influence and his theological skill, forged a letter in John’s name, and sent it to the caliph to try and discredit John. The caliph, in response, cut off the hand of the one that was presumed to have written the letter. However, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John’s hand was completely restored. The caliph was convinced of John’s innocence.
Throughout St. John’s life, he battled the still (though over one hundred years running) heresy of Arianism. St. John’s most eloquent writing The Fountain of Wisdom logically proclaimed the existence of God, explained Orthodox Christianity, denounced the errors of Mohammed, highlighted the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, and helped the uneducated to understand the epistles of St. Paul. He is referred to as the last of the Greek Fathers, and was lifted to Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII. I do suggest you spend a moment with his full story at New Advent:
St. John, who was accused of worshiping icons, explains how we should view the things that both remind us of God, and bring us closer to God. He says:
“The whole earth is an icon of the face of God…I do not worship matter,
I worship the creator of matter, who became matter for my sake,
who willed to take his abode in matter, who worked out my salvation through matter.
Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation!
I honor it, but not as God. Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence,
because God has filled it with His grace and power.
Through it my salvation has come to me.”

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ST. BEDE THE VENERABLE (673 - 735)

Our next stroll with a faith ancestor has us visiting a very interesting character, St. Bede the Venerable, more famously known as simply Venerable Bede. In today’s world we might think the life that Bede led to be very incongruous. But, it seemed to work out just fine for him. At age seven, Bede was sent to the monastery at Monkwearmouth in Britain for studies. For all intent and purposes, he never left. At age 19 he was admitted to the diaconate, and at age 30 was ordained to the priesthood. And the English speaking world owes him a great deal of thanks as Venerable Bede translated all of Scripture (both the Latin and the Greek writings) into English. He wanted everyone to have knowledge of the Word directly. He was considered by most to be the most learned man of his era. His life was centered completely in love of God and love of Scripture. To us today this may seem a bit bizarre but imagine if you could spend time every day with another individual and all you would do is talk about things of God and things of the Spirit; doesn’t sound too crazy to me. Bede was named a Doctor of the Church in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.
 “God stirs the air and raises the winds; He makes the lightning flash and thunders out of heaven, to move the inhabitants of the earth to fear Him, and to remind them of judgement to come. He shatters their conceit and subdues their presumption by recalling to their minds that awful Day when heaven and earth will flame as He comes in the clouds with great power and majesty to judge the living and the dead. Therefore we should respond to His heavenly warnings with the fear and love we owe Him,’ said Chad. ‘And whenever He raises His hands in the trembling air as if to strike, yet spares us still, we should hasten to implore His mercy, examining our inmost hearts and purging the vileness of our sins, watchful over our lives lest we incur His just displeasure.”


And now a prayer spoken by St. Bede:

 And I pray thee, loving Jesus,

that as Thou hast graciously given me

to drink in with delight the words of Thy knowledge,

so Thou wouldst mercifully grant me to attain one day to Thee,

the fountain of all wisdom and to appear forever before Thy face.


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ST. ISADORE OF SEVILLE (560 - 636)

Blessed morning Godbuddies,
Bet you didn’t know there was a St. Isadore? Not only was there an canonized Isadore, but he was also afforded Doctor of the Church status. And as I read his story, it was probably due to the fact that St. Isadore of Seville (560 – 636), almost single handedly was responsible for the spread of the Catholic Faith in Spain. At a time when the Goths, and Visigoths were in control, and Arianism and other heresies were rampant throughout Europe, Isadore made a concerted effort, through his extensive writing, and his long term as Bishop of Seville, to spread the faith. Through his efforts he made certain that there was a seminary in every Cathedral City in Spain. St. Isadore was considered to be the last of the Latin Fathers, and the last line with connection to the ancient wisdom. He made it his life’s work to compile a summa of all knowledge and make it available to the seminaries. You might say that St. Isadore helped lay the foundation of the Renaissance that was about to burst onto the European scene.
Here are a couple thoughts from St. Isadore worthy of deeper reflection…
“If a man wants to always be in God’s company, he must pray regularly, and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.”
All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned. The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.

[NOTE: If you are reading this then you are probably enjoying the intercession of St. Isadore. For St. Isadore is deemed the Patron Saint of the Internet. Do you think he might have seen it coming back in the 6th and 7th Century?]

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ST. GREGORY THE GREAT, POPE (540 - 604)

As we continue our “walk” with our faith ancestors we come to the last of the group known as the Fathers of the Church. While they are Doctors, they have also been given the title of “Father” because of their overwhelming influence on the role that they played in the foundation and the establishment of our faith. In review, the following are both Doctor, and Father of the Catholic Church – St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. John Chrysostom, and now St. Gregory the Great (540 – 604).  As the story of St. Peter Chrysologus was short, (our last walk), I could do a Doctoral Thesis, no pun intended, on St. Gregory the Great.

The following is an excerpt from a eulogy delivered on St. Gregory by a non-Catholic writer of the day:
Gregory is certainly one of the most notable figures in Ecclesiastical History. He has exercised in many respects a momentous influence on the doctrine, the organization, and the discipline of the Catholic Church. To him we must look for an explanation of the religious situation of the Middle Ages; indeed, if no account were taken of his work, the evolution of the form of medieval Christianity would be almost inexplicable. And further, in so far as the modern Catholic system is a legitimate development of medieval Catholicism, of this too Gregory may not unreasonably be termed the Father. Almost all the leading principles of the later Catholicism are found, at any rate in germ, in Gregory the Great.

I will try to keep this as brief as possible, but the full story at New Advent is worth the read:
 It seemed St. Gregory was destined for sainthood, as both his mother and two aunts are canonized. While it seemed Gregory was on the fast track into public life, he chose to enter the monastery of St. Andrew’s and to live an ascetic life according to the Rule of St. Benedict. However in 578, after living for three years (called by Gregory  - the best years of his life) in the monastery, he was “snatched” by the pope and ordained. Gregory would later return to his beloved St. Andrew’s  as it’s abbot until in 590 he was selected to be pope. Two of his greatest spiritual achievements were: his argument against Eutychius, who was saying that the Resurrection was merely light, not substance – Gregory eloquently rebuked the idea; and his establishment when he was pope of guidelines for the episcopate – The Book of Pastoral Rule - which, for the most part stand true today. He called bishops to be physicians of souls. I could go on and on, but if you can take some time to read his whole story.
 From the mouth of St. Gregory the Great:
“The proof of LOVE is in the works.
Where LOVE exists it does great things.
But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.”
 And we pray…
Mighty God, compassionate God
May your LOVE be ever in our hearts
That we may always act with LOVE
That LOVE may never cease to be.

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ST. PETER CHRYSOLOGUS (400 - 450)

Today we take a walk with St. Peter Chrysologus (400 – 450). I found practically nothing about his life other than he was consecrated Bishop of Ravenna in 433, and that he wowed the See with 176 homilies. It was why he was given the title of Chrysologus – it means “golden words.”  So I offer you a brief walk with this Saint’s golden heart:
(NOTE: The New Advent bio had but 2 paragraphs)

 “There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.”



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ST. LEO I the GREAT (390 - 461)

Today, our “sit down” with a Faith Ancestor, takes us to the life of Pope St. Leo I (known as the Great). It is not sure as to when he was born, but most historians place the year at 390. He died in 461. One thing is certain, St. Leo served as pope for twenty one years. Up to this point he held the longest tenured papacy. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity. At a time when the Church was experiencing the greatest obstacles to her progress in consequence of the hastening disintegration of the Western Empire, while the Orient was profoundly agitated over dogmatic controversies, this great pope, with far-seeing sagacity and powerful hand, guided the destiny of the Roman and Universal Church.”



From my reading of Leo’s bio in New Advent (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09154b.htm ) this pontificate was the one that righted the ship, so to speak. The Church had been battling heresy, after heresy, and under Leo’s guidance the Church solidified. Among his many accomplishments, the two that stood out the strongest were, his insistence that the episcopate (the priesthood) maintain a strict ecclesiastical discipline. The other, was that he convinced Attila the Hun not to ravage Rome. He was a pope who truly practiced what he preached. He maintained high moral standards throughout his pontificate, and spoke often on the primacy of the papacy.



“No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross.  No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ.”



Loving God,

Forgive us our weakness

May we forgive each other

As you forgive us.

May we come to fully realize

That it is through your spirit,

Your love, your life
That we are what we are. Amen


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ST. CYRIL OF ALEXENDRIA (376 - 444)

We do not know very much about the early life of St. Cyril, but we can surmise that he must have been destined to lead a religious life. His father's brother was Theolphilus, who was the Bishop of Alexandria who took over after the death of St. John Chrysostom. We also know that Cyril was leading the ascetic like of a monk when he was raised and consecrated to the Patriarchy of Alexandria immediately following his uncle's death. (See bio at New Advent for more details:)

St. Cyril is best known for two things. The first being his battle against one of the heresies of his day, Nestorianism, which tried to assert that Jesus had two distinct natures - human and divine, not two natures in one. This led to the second of St. Cyril's fame, as he wrote extensively on the Incarnation, and it has been the foundation of the Church's belief since the 5th century. The following words from St. Cyril should challenge us and give us comfort to know that our Spirit, our Hope, and our Strength lies in the heart of the Blessed Sacrament.

“If the poison of pride is swelling up in you, turn to the Eucharist; and that Bread, Which is your God humbling and disguising Himself, will teach you humility. If the fever of selfish greed rages in you, feed on this Bread; and you will learn generosity. If the cold wind of coveting withers you, hasten to the Bread of Angels; and charity will come to blossom in your heart. If you feel the itch of intemperance, nourish yourself with the Flesh and Blood of Christ, Who practiced heroic self-control during His earthly life; and you will become temperate. If you are lazy and sluggish about spiritual things, strengthen yourself with this heavenly Food; and you will grow fervent. Lastly, if you feel scorched by the fever of impurity, go to the banquet of the Angels; and the spotless Flesh of Christ will make you pure and chaste.”



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ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354 - 430)

Our next visit with our faith ancestors takes us to a visit with the man, who many believe, might be the greatest theologian of our Catholic Faith. St. Augustine of Hippo, was born in Tagaste, a small village in North Africa, in a region of what is now Algeria. Augustine’s story, while amazing, does not happen without the prayers and efforts of his mother Monica (also a Saint, and to my knowledge they are the only mother, son combination of canonized sainthood). I will try to be as brief as I can in my telling of Augustine’s story, but it is truly one that is worth a longer read:

In today’s standards you might call Augustine’s family in the range of the low end of middle class. His father was a civil servant and pagan. His mother Monica was the driving force in both her husband’s and her son’s faith life. She succeeded in converting her husband before his death, and in assisting her son to return to the true faith. Augustine flirted with many of the heresies of his day, particularly the Manichaens. Monica made sure her son was well educated, sacrificing much to send Augustine to some of the finest schools. Augustine fell in with a “bad” crowd, and along the way fathered two children out of wedlock. For close to ten years, Augustine’s efforts revolved around a purely philosophical approach to things, but it was this logical thinking which led him away from the Manichaeans and back toward true Christianity. He taught grammar and philosophy, even starting his own school in Milan. It was his meeting with St. Ambrose which began the path to his theological studies.
Through the prayers and urgings of St. Monica, Augustine, in 387, on Easter Sunday was baptized by St. Ambrose and came into full communion with the Church. While he did not seek out the priesthood, he was ordained in 391, when he underwent a bit of another conversion upon visiting a very sick friend. While he was praying for his friend in church, the people of Hippo urged the Bishop Valerius to raise Augustine to the priesthood. His religious life began, becoming a vehement opponent of Manichaeism. And he began his writing. He became bishop of the See of Hippo a position he held until his death.
 But it was his writing of The Confessions, The City of God, and On The Holiness of The Catholic Church, which cemented him as one of the greats if not the greatest Theologian of the Catholic Faith. For all that would follow, would have Augustine as their foundation. The reading of The Confessions would become required in all priestly training. For what it is worth, I would suggest reading The Confessions, but read them in short moments. I have provided a link for you:

(I will also be putting up a brief glance at The Confessions in our August posting of DIGGING DEEPER at www.oldp.org )

I could spend the entire day here with you visiting St. Augustine. I love reflecting on his teaching. When I just want a moment with this great Father of our Faith, I go to:

There you will find over 7 pages of Augustine quotes to reflect on. Here’s one to get you started. And to use as a prayer.
“Oh, God, to know you is life. To serve You is freedom. To praise you is the soul's joy and delight. Guard me with the power of Your grace here and in all places. Now and at all times, forever. Amen.”
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ST. JEROME (345 - 420)
St. Jerome, who is best known for translating the Bible into Latin, the Vulgate, was a contemporary of St. Augustine. (Oddly they were born 10 years apart, and died 10 years apart.) St. Jerome primarily lived a life of asceticism, preferring the solitude of the monastery to the hustle and bustle of ecclesiastical politics. He did however spend a good portion of his years in Rome. He developed a very strong friendship with St. Gregory of Nazianzus, also a Doctor of the Church. When it came to understanding Scripture and explaining it, St. Jerome had very few to rival him. In addition to his translation of Scripture into the Latin, he also translated the homilies of Origen, which shed light on the depth of Jerome’s knowledge of the Sacred texts.
(See St. Jerome’s full story at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08341a.htm )
I am going to share several of his thoughts with you, for each speaks to ways that we can grow deeper in our relationship with God:
 “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

“When we pray, we speak to God.
When we read, God speaks to us.”
 And my favorite…
 “It is our part to seek
His to grant what we ask
Ours to make a beginning,
His to bring it to completion;
Ours to offer what we can,
His to finish what we cannot.”
 And we shall end with a prayer of St. Jerome’s…

Oh Lord, you have given us your Word as a light to shine upon our path.
Grant us so to meditate on that word, and follow its teaching
That we may find in it the light that shines
More and more until the perfect day. Amen.

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ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
The name Chrysostom is a title, not a place or a family name. It means, “golden mouthed.” John, from the moment he could talk, did so with eloquence. His father died when he was very young. Certainly John’s path was set by his mother, who at the time of his father’s death was but twenty years old, pious, intelligent, and full of character. She made the decision to sacrifice everything to send John to the finest schools in Antioch, the place of John’s birth. (Gee, sounds like what most Catholic families do best, sacrifice so that their children can be formed properly in understanding and in faith.)
St. John would go on to become a lector, a monk, then deacon and priest, and though he did not ask for it, eventually became the Bishop of Constantinople. His greatest works, and probably how he came to be a Doctor of the Church were his ability to negotiate conflicts – between people, rulers, and even within Church politics. And he is best recognized from a faith perspective in his complete understanding of the Scriptures, of which he preached most often. As a dogmatic theologian there were few who could rival him. Augustine of Hippo, who the Catholic Church considers as among the greatest, referred to St. John Chrysostom on more than one occasion. St. John is invoked by both the Latin Church and the Eastern Orthodox (of which he is the primary reference).
His full bio in New Advent is worth the read: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452b.htm
 “Let us give thanks to God continually. For, it is outrageous that when we enjoy His benefaction to us in deed every single day, we do not acknowledge the favor with so much as a word; and this, when the acknowledgment confers great benefit on us. He does not need anything of ours, but we stand in need of all things from Him.
In point of fact, thanksgiving adds nothing to Him, but it brings us closer to Him. For if, when we recall the benefactions of men, we are the more warmed by affection for them; much more, when we continually bring to mind the benefits of the Master towards us, shall we be more earnest with regard to His commandments.
For this cause Paul also said, Be ye thankful. For the best preservative of any benefaction is the remembrance of the benefaction, and a continual thanksgiving for it.”
We pray…
As St. John Chrysostom urges…
Thank you, oh God
You need nothing of me
I need everything of you
Let not a moment of thought cross my mind
Or my heart, without “Thanks be to God” upon my lips.

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ST. AMBROSE (340 - 397)
When the church decided to designate certain individuals because of their significant influence on the life and the growth of the Catholic Church, St. Ambrose was among the first 4 chosen (Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great the other three).
 St. Ambrose was so influential in the life of the Church, three cities claimed to have been the place of his birth. Even St. Augustine wanted Ambrose’s biography rewritten because as he claimed, “was not sufficient enough for a man of his influence.” St. Ambrose’s early life was influenced by his sister (10 years older) who became a nun, and his mother who was deeply devoted to the Christian faith. His father was prefect of Gallia (at the time, next to Rome, the greatest province in the Roman Empire covering France, Spain, and Britain). The legend is that when the ancient chair of St. Barnabas became open at the exile of Bishop Dionysius, and Arians and Cappadocians were fighting over the seat, Ambrose was called to mediate, and an infant was heard to cry out, “Ambrose Bishop.” The assembly elected him, and he went on to become the model of the Christian Bishop.
To get a good picture of what kind of person he was, just pay attention to this line from his biography in New Advent, “In all probability the Greek Schism would not have taken place had East and West continued to converse as intimately as did St. Ambrose and St. Basil.” From what I have read, Ambrose appears to have been everything that St. Paul called for when he urged us to “put on the cloak of Christ.” Read St. Ambrose entire biography at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01383c.htm

The following is taken from a homily given by St. Ambrose:

“Father, if possible, take away this cup from me." Many cling to this text in order to use the sadness of the Savior as proof that he had weakness from the beginning rather than taking it on for a time. In this way they distort the natural meaning of the sentence. I, however, consider it not only as something that does not need to be excused, but nowhere else do I admire more his tender love and majesty. He would have given me less, had he not taken on my emotions. Thus he suffered affliction for me, he who did not have to suffer anything for himself. Setting aside the enjoyment of his divinity, he is afflicted with the annoyance of my weakness. He took on my sadness so that he might bestow on me his joy. He descended into the anguish of death by following in our footsteps so that he might call us back to life by following in his footsteps. I do not hesitate to speak of sadness since I am preaching the cross; he took on not the appearance but the reality of the Incarnation. Thus, instead of avoiding it, he had to take on the pain in order to overcome sadness.”
 And we pray…
Loving God,
Your Son became as one of us to show us the WAY to live as You called for us to live.
Fill me with the Spirit to live as He lived, to love as He loved, and to one day die into Your loving arms. Amen.

*****

ST. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS (325 - 389)

One of the Three Cappadocians as they were called (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazaianzus), battled successfully – most of the time – the greatest heresy of their age, or any age for that matter, Arianism. If you do not know, Arianism taught that Jesus was of God, but not God. Jesus, according to Arianism was created by God, but was not consubstantial with God, thus it denied the triune nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Three Cappadocians, of which Gregory of Nazianzus was one, were three of the most fervent opponents of Arianism. St. Gregory of Nazianzus was so fervent just in his demeanor and spirit, that when he was named Bishop of Constantinople, Arianism which was dominating the Church of the East at the time, practically disappeared. Gregory’s orations on the Trinity were so powerful that he attracted Arians back to orthodoxy. St. Jerome was a pupil of St. Gregory. As I am taking these “walks” along with you of our Faith Ancestors, I am overwhelmed by their level of faith and determination. We should be so filled. Read St. Gregory’s full story at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm 

“Human beings have accumulated in their coffers gold and silver, clothes more sumptuous than useful, diamonds and other objects that are evidence of war and tyranny; then a foolish arrogance hardens their hearts; for their brothers in distress, no pity. What utter blindness! . . . Attend not to the law of the strong but to the law of the Creator. Help nature to the best of your ability, honor the freedom of creation, protect your species from dishonor, come to its aids in sickness, rescue it from poverty …. Seek to distinguish yourself from others only in your generosity. Be like gods to the poor, imitating God’s mercy. Humanity has nothing so much in common with God as the ability to do good.”                                                                            
– St. Gregory of Nazianzus, On Love of the Poor
Just a true in this age as it was in St. Gregory’s. This is what we are called to by God, and our prayer is thus…
Oh God, Fill us with your Spirt that we like St. Gregory before us might honor creation and imitate your mercy to all we meet.

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ST. BASIL THE GREAT (330 - 379)

As I was researching the life of St. Basil, I was moved by one particular aspect of his incredible life. He accomplished most of his "ministry" - a deep understanding of everything that Jesus called for us to be, especially the love your neighbor thing - before he was ordained to the episcopate. He was a layman at the time, ordained later in his life. So, maybe we can do "priestly things" without being a priest. I strongly urge you to take a few minutes, and read St. Basil's full story at the New Advent web site: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02330b.htm

Here is a brief summary from that site:

Basil had shown a marked interest in the poor and afflicted; that interest now displayed itself in the erection of a magnificent institution, the Ptochoptopheion, or Basileiad, a house for the care of friendless strangers, the medical treatment of the sick poor, and the industrial training of the unskilled. Built in the suburbs, it attained such importance as to become practically the centre of a new city with the name of he kaine polis or "Newtown". It was the motherhouse of like institutions erected in other dioceses and stood as a constant reminder to the rich of their privilege of spending wealth in a truly Christian way. It may be mentioned here that the social obligations of the wealthy were so plainly and forcibly preached by St. Basil that modern sociologists have ventured to claim him as one of their own, though with no more foundation than would exist in the case of any other consistent teacher of the principles of Catholic ethics. The truth is that St. Basil was a practical lover of Christian poverty, and even in his exalted position preserved that simplicity in food and clothing and that austerity of life for which he had been remarked at his first renunciation of the world.

“He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” St. Basil

Loving God…
In the Story of St. Basil I see Jesus’ primary call
To love one another, as You love us.
Why is that so difficult for us to do
Fill our hearts, set fire to our souls
That we, as St. Basil before us
Do all we can to raise those who are most in need
Of Your Love.

*****

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ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (315 - 387)

Today’s stroll with one of our faith ancestors, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, doesn't provide much information on his life. But what we know of his writing is very moving. As I was reading his full biography on New Advent, the Catholic Encyclopedia, I was touched by how today’s “creed” bears the same spirit as that of the very beginning. I know, it is supposed to be that way, right. But the way we want to change things to fit the times, can’t change the core of what we know to be true.
 Little is known of the early life of St. Cyril. We know he was born in or around 315. Some put his death at 378, others at 387. Most of what we know comes through his extant (still in existence) writings. And the piece of his writing I wish to share with you is his creed – written before the Council of Nicea…

 St. Cyril's doctrine is expressed in his creed, which seems to have run thus:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten by the Father true God before all ages, God of God, Life of Life, Light of Light, by Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified . . . and buried. He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and sat at the right hand of the Father. And He cometh in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And in one Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, Who spake by the prophets; and in one baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and in one holy Catholic Church, and in the resurrection of the body, and in life everlasting.
(taken from the New Advent Biography: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04595b.htm )
 I urge you, if you have a moment to click on the full biography, and read, at the end, his explanation of the Blessed Sacrament. It will move you. And the following thought from one of his lectures shall be our prayer today…
 “Let us then, my brethren, endure in hope. Let us devote ourselves, side-by-side with our hoping, so that the God of all the universe, as he beholds our intention, may cleanse us from all sins, fill us with high hopes from what we have in hand, and grant us the change of heart that saves. God has called you, and you have your calling.”


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ST. HILARY OF POITERS (315 - 368)

Today’s “walk” with our faith ancestors takes us to the see of Poiters. (In case you were not aware anyone who is bishop of a location, the area of that bishop’s influence is referred to as a SEE.) St. Hilary of Poiters, another of the early Church Fathers, and of course Doctor of the Church, lived in what I am beginning to think might have been the most important time in Church History. He was born in Poiters at the beginning of the fourth century; died there 1 November, according to the most accredited opinion, or according to the Roman Breviary, on 13 January, 368. Belonging to a noble and very probably pagan family, he was instructed in all the branches of profane learning, but, having also taken up the study of Holy Scripture and finding there the truth which he sought so ardently, he renounced idolatry and was baptized. I say most important time in Church History because by this time, all the Apostles, and many of those who immediately followed the Apostles were no longer alive. Did they do their evangelizing, as Jesus wanted it done? Was the Holy Spirit truly alive?
In St. Hilary’s case, they must have. For he battled heresy, particularly the Arian Heresy, like no other, and it appears as though Hilary and the Holy Spirit prevailed. (See his complete biography at:

“The chief service I owe you, O God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you.”
 And this should be our prayer…
My thoughts, my words, my actions, oh God
Fall so short of your Glory.
Nothing I say, or think, or do can compare to Yours
So, I pray, that all I say, or do, or think
Be worthy in Your sight. Amen



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SAINT EPHRAEM (306 - 373)

Born at Nisibis, then under Roman rule, early in the fourth century; died June, 373. The name of his father is unknown, but he was a pagan and a priest of the goddess Abnil or Abizal. His mother was a native of Amid. Ephraem was instructed in the Christian mysteries by St. James, the famous Bishop of Nisibis, and was baptized at the age of eighteen (or twenty-eight). Thenceforth he became more intimate with the holy bishop, who availed himself of the services of Ephraem to renew the moral life of the citizens of Nisibis, especially during the sieges of 338, 346, and 350. One of his biographers relates that on a certain occasion he cursed from the city walls the Persian hosts, whereupon a cloud of flies and mosquitoes settled on the army of Sapor II and compelled it to withdraw. But as the Church is concerned, and I would guess why he qualified as a Doctor of the Church, St. Ephraem is responsible for provided a comprehensive commentary on every book of the Old and the New Testaments. He was considered one of the preeminent theologians of his day.
To read  Saint Ephraem's full biography, go to:
 I found the following quote of his to be more than suitable for reflection:
 “Virtues are formed by prayer
Prayer preserves temperance
Prayer suppresses anger
Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy
Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit
And raises man to heaven.”
 So I am thinking maybe we should pray…
 Loving, compassionate, forgiving God
To you I turn, in times of
Joy, happiness, trial, and sadness
Allow my daily prayer to take me to your side
Wrap me in your embrace
Walk with me, that all I do shows to the world
The glory of your love. Amen

*****
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SAINT ATHANASIUS (295 - 373)

Bishop of Alexandria; Confessor and Doctor of the Church; born c. 296; died 2 May, 373. Athanasius was the greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation that the Church has ever known and in his lifetime earned the characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy", by which he has been distinguished ever since. Athanasius was one of those rare personalities that derive incomparably more from their own native gifts of intellect and character than from the fortuitousness of descent or environment. His career almost personifies a crisis in the history of Christianity; and he may be said rather to have shaped the events in which he took part than to have been shaped by them. The legend goes, that as a young boy, Athanasius was caught “baptizing” several of his friends. He was spotted by Alexander the Bishop of Alexandria, and when Athanasius and the other boys were questioned. Alexander determined that the baptism was valid, and he immediately welcomed Athanasius into clerical training. And the rest as they say, is history. Athanasius went on to follow Alexander as the next Bishop, and through Athanasius’ writings distinguished himself as one of the most learned of Church scholars of his time. Athanasius fought vehemently against the Arian heresy (which claimed that Jesus was just a man, no divinity). – See full biography at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02035a.htm

“The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.”
Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation   
FOR REFLECTION: Sit quietly, close your eyes. Allow your spirit to visit with Saint Athanasius. Here the words he spoke. Ask Jesus to heal any bit of brokenness that may be dwelling in you. As Saint Athanasius said, Jesus did not come to dazzle, but to put himself at our disposal, to be there whenever we find ourselves in need.

And we pray...

(adapted from a thought of St. Athanasius)
Loving God,
You chose to become as one of us
Sending Jesus Your Son
To reveal to us the Divine Life
Give us the strength to follow in his steps
And to one day live eternally with you.

*****


100 YEARS of Struggle

(circa 200a.d. – 300a.d.)

The time period roughly between 200 and 300 a.d. was a time of great upheaval in the Church. It was a time of constant questioning, and constant persecution. Was Jesus, God? Is there a Trinity? Is the Eucharist real or just symbolic? Almost all of the Roman Emperors, except for Alexander Severus (222a.d.) who was a Christian but believed also in the Roman mythology, persecuted Christians and their leaders. Heresy abounded: Monarchians who claimed Jesus is God, but separate from the Father, Sabellius, a priest, who taught Jesus did not exist before the Incarnation, Montanists, who were Christians, but just believed it was the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit that mattered.

But through all of this, as we know, the Church remained steadfast and faithful. And much good emerged: Monasticism was established by St. Anthony in 250a.d.

For Reflection: Just as the early Church struggled, we too struggle in our Faith. Let us pray for the same steadfastness that carried the Church.

Loving God,

If I should fall, lift me up

If I should doubt, enlighten me. Amen
*****

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The Foundation: 4 Gospels Plus (circa 140)

No, the New Testament did not drop form the sky, nor was it discovered in a cave as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It developed over time, from an “oral tradition.” Jesus had such an impact, that the story spread. And because it was OF GOD, it was sustained, it did not fade away.

Thomas was one of the first Apostles to actually begin to write down things. If you wish to look at the Gospel of Thomas, you can go to: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html. But it was around 140, when Marcion, who was deemed to be a heretic, established a canon of Luke’s Gospel along with the writings of Paul, that the authority of the Church began to explore a setting of the Foundation of the New Testament. The document that we have today dates to what is called the Muratorian Canon. It is a work from 170 a.d. that contains Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 13 Pauline Letters, 1 and 2 John and Revelation. (Hebrews and Peter would be added some thirty years later.)

For Reflection: Reflect on the ways that you are inspired daily, just as those who put together the Canon of Scripture must have been inspired.
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He Named Us                                                                                                               
(St. Ignatius of Antioch 50 a.d – approx. 115a.d)

There is a legend that Jesus held the babe Ignatius in his arms, Mark 9:35. But that would have him born before 50 a.d. who knows. What we do know, and is a matter of historical record, is that Ignatius was consecrated as Bishop of Antioch by St. Peter himself. Another thing that we are practically certain of is that Ignatius named us – he called us CATHOLIC (from the Greek kathos and holos, to “welcome all”).

The story goes, that as Ignatius was traveling from Antioch to Rome to be executed, at every stop along the way he was welcomed graciously by all the Christians, who of course were keeping themselves hidden for fear of persecution. But, they risked their own lives to welcome Ignatius. So, he proclaimed them to all be katholos. Thus, to this day we call ourselves Catholic.  So we pray…

FOR REFLECTION:

Take a moment and ask yourself, how well do you wear the name CATHOLIC?



Mighty God Father of All,

Compassionate God Mother of All

Strengthen my spirit that I may never fear to

Be Catholic, Speak Catholic, Act Catholic, Love Catholic. Amen.
*****


The Same Since 100 a.d.

For today’s glance back at The Reason We Are, we see that the Order Of The Mass, has remained basically the same since it was formulated by St. Justin Martyr, and St. Clement of Rome roughly around 100 a.d. It was shaped and named “leitourgia” the Greek word meaning Liturgy, and its basic function has never been drastically changed: The Word, or teaching, and the Eucharist.

FOR REFLECTION: The next time you go to mass, put yourself in the homes, and in the catacombs of the early Christians, who faced death for the love of the MASS.

Loving God,

Never may we take your Holy Sacrifice for granted                                                        
Never may we waver in our love for its grace.

*****




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To Give One’s Life: St. James the Great                                                                          (circa 44 a.d.)

In today’s “The Reason We Are,” we take a glance at the life of St. James the Great, brother of John, and the First Apostle to give up his life for the faith. St. James was among the first three whom Jesus chose. Peter, James, and John can be found at all the significant moments of Jesus’ ministry (e.g. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, The Transfiguration, The Agony in the Garden, etc.). If you have the time and the curiosity, read about St. James life at the following link: The Life of St. James the Great
Also if it peaks your interest, take a moment and read about the pilgrimage which is inspired by the life of St. James, the Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James

Let us pray:

Through an understanding of the Life of St. James
May we come to realize that the faith we have in you, oh God
Should and must be the driving force of our lives.
Give us to spirit we need to keep that faith
Ever burning within our hearts.

*****
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The 13th Apostle

Saul of Tarsus (b.k.a. St. Paul)

 If the Resurrection is our Salvation, and Pentecost, thanks to the Holy Spirit, is our Birthday, then Saul of Tarsus (better known as St. Paul, the Apostle) is our conscience. God’s deliberate effort to knock Saul “off his high horse” (see the story Acts 9) truly set the Church in motion. For, without Paul’s letters, and the work of Cornelius – who we will look at tomorrow – the Church might have remained confined to a sect of Judaism, rather than a breathing, growing, life of God in the world.

 A Reflection on St. Paul:
It probably stands as St. Paul’s most remembered words, and it is probably a bit cliché, but for me it still has the pull that tugs at my spirit and soul. For your reflection read the whole two Chapters,
1 Corinthians 13 & 14, Scripture scholars call it “The Way of Love.” Give it a chance swirl around in your heart. Imagine that you are in a pen-pal with Paul, and he wrote this to you…
 My dear Child of God,
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing… (from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians)


A Prayer on the Spirit of St. Paul,

 Mighty God, Compassionate God,

As you called upon Saul to carry Your message of LOVE

Do so with me! Remove my blindness

Let me see the good, and the glory of all your creation

Let me not turn my back on any in need

Strengthen me to be a living, breathing, instrument of your LOVE. Amen

(The ministry of St. Paul started in 35 a.d. at the time of his conversion, and ran until 67 a.d. the known time of his death.)

*****

The Resurrection
(circa 29 or 30 or thereabouts)

The birth of the Church (Pentecost) would not have occurred had Jesus been anything other than his proclamation as the Son of God. Below you will find several of the post Resurrection appearances. Pick one and as you read imagine you are actually there.
John 20: 11-18
Luke 24: 13-35
Mark 16: 14-18
John 21 (my favorite)

A Text to Jesus: Thnx 4 breaking the bonds of death. For freeing my soul to live as you lived.

This daily look back upon all the people, places and events which shaped our faith will begin on Monday June 26, 2017

*****